Q: I'm visiting Barcelona, and I was just wondering, should my friend and I learn phrases in Spanish or Catalan before we go? Are they both equally accepted? I read somewhere that Catalan people may look down on those who speak Spanish to them, given the history of the area. Any insight into this? I'd like to learn some Spanish just because it would be applicable to other places too. But which language will be most welcomed in Barcelona?
A: It depends what your objective is. If you want to connect with Catalan culture and have a more personal insight into the indigenous culture, then it's best to learn Catalan. If you wish to be more widely understood, then learning Spanish would be the option.
Barcelona is a truly international city, and it attracts people from all over Spain and indeed the rest of the world. The majority of people living here understand and can speak Spanish, including the Catalans. However, not everyone can speak or understand Catalan.
I think it is fair to say that some Catalans prefer not to speak Spanish however in my experience of living here it is rare for anyone to be offended if you speak Spanish as opposed to Catalan.
If you truly wish to integrate with Catalan culture then it would be essential to learn Catalan. Catalan culture is distinct from that of Spanish culture. Catalans have their own music and dance, food, celebrations and language. Speaking a few words and phrases in Catalan can make all the difference. Not many "extranjeros" (foreigners) make enough efforts to learn or speak the Catalan language.
In summary if you want the best experience it may be worth learning essential words and phrases in both languages however if you are pressed on time then you would be able to communicate with a wider audience in Spanish but bear in mind you may not have the same personal connection with Catalan culture.
In one of our newsletters (link below) we outline some tips on how to learn to speak basic Spanish quickly and easily. Follow the link below: